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What is CPTED and is Sudbury using it effectively?

CPTED stands for Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design and you can certainly see examples of its use in downtown Sudbury, but the man who helped create it says the version of being used by Greater Sudbury Police is outdated

The Greater Sudbury Police have been making headway into property crime rates in downtown Sudbury, and one method they credit with the decrease is called Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED, pronounced 'sep-ted'). 

But one of the originators of the concept, a former police officer who grew up in Sudbury, told Sudbury.com that if GSPS is only using the “first generation” of the tool, rather than the updated version meant to include the needs of vulnerable populations, the plans could be causing a vicious cycle, or displace the issues of the downtown to other parts of the city. 

Gregory Saville is co-founder of the International CPTED Association, inaugural chair and a long-time CPTED and crime prevention practitioner. He said the generational aspect is important because there is a distinction between crime opportunity and crime motive. 

Originally, CPTED was designed around the idea that by improving the physical environment, you can reduce the ‘opportunity’ for crime. 

It’s what Saville refers to as “first-generation CPTED.”

GSPS has two officers trained with first generation through CPTED Canada (formerly CPTED Ontario). The training is built upon three pillars: natural surveillance, centred on visibility of spaces, identifying where intruders would be able to hide and creating optimal visibility; natural access control, which is denying intruders access to a crime target and creating a perception of risk to the offender, and; territorial reinforcement, creating a sense of ownership that design creates for the space, usually by ensuring property is cared for, maintained and even decorated. 

If you’re familiar with the downtown Tim Hortons, you have seen an example of first-generation CPTED in the fenced area between the LCBO, Tim Horton’s and downtown bus terminal, said Const. Mickey Teed. 

Teed is a member of the GSPS Community Response Unit and trained in the first generation of CPTED, through CPTED Ontario.

Teed said that his trainer from CPTED Ontario, Tom McKay (now president of the organization), consulted with GSPS and city partners to fence off the area that used to be hidden between the buildings. 

“There used to be a pathway there, and they offered some suggestions in regards to how to prevent the loitering issue.” Teed said that the fence created a defining environmental barrier. “And that has decreased our calls for service in that area.”

As a community response officer who works with community partners, Teed is also aware of the need for sensitivity when it comes to the vulnerable populations of Sudbury and told Sudbury.com he connects the people who need it with available social services, like the shelter, or safe consumption site, depending on their need.

“One of the tips we give these businesses is to have more clear sightlines generally; a person doing drugs is not going to shoot up right out in the open, they need a little bit of privacy,” said Teed. “That being said, in regards to helping the vulnerable population, we try to spread the word when we're doing an audit and if I'm downtown, I'll try to approach the individuals that are using the area and try to find out why they're using that area. 

“I get a little bit of insight, and then offer them some services to help them with their addiction or offer a safer place to do it (such as the safe consumption site.)” 

These ideas are where second generation CPTED begins, said Scoville. First generation dealt with where crime was, said Saville, “but not why.”  

He said that most organizations love a cookie-cutter approach, and one that focuses on sightlines, fencing and increased lighting — similar to ideas found in the work of the downtown task team, the group put together in 2020 to address the rising homelessness issue in the downtown core. 

“You can put a light in, you can trim the hedges and you could cut some crime opportunities,” said Saville. “But the problem with that was you never dealt with the opportunity or with the motive, which is like hacking the branches and not digging at the roots.”

Greater Sudbury Police reported a decrease in property crimes in the city’s downtown core as a result of efforts such as the 412 focused patrols on bikes, cruisers and foot in high-complaint or high-risk areas downtown from June 1 to July 31.

Break and enters have been down 43 per cent during these two months compared to the same timeframe last year, shoplifting is down 40 per cent and there’s been a decrease in the number of thefts (-17 per cent) and mischief (-16 per cent). 

A release from GSPS attributes this in part to education about CPTED principles. 

The messaging on a brochure provided to Sudbury.com by Sudbury Police includes information about CPTED concepts, including the additional “designation” that includes “ensure the space has clear and concise rules and borders.”

Additionally, it includes tips on lighting, adding locks and deadbolts, as well as security bars when applicable, and having an alarm system. 

But that isn’t enough for areas with vulnerable populations, Saville said. 

“What would first-gen CPTED do to overcome these recurring issues? Nothing.”

He said that first generation CPTED won’t work successfully because the vulnerable community in each area is seen as a group of “outsiders.”

“The territory controls of first-gen only work if the people inside the territory care about the territory,” Saville said. “And if you have people who are seen as outsiders, they're never going to be brought into this circle and first generation never deals with them.”

But the second generation brings them to the table, Saville said. “We actually sit down with them; we invite mental health workers and social workers and local beat cops and the homeless community together. We sit down and we come up with a plan.” 

The second generation of CPTED is about introducing social concepts like community culture, creating a sense of common purpose in the neighbourhood. Also connectivity, linking neighbourhoods together to avoid not-in-my-backyard resistance, and  social cohesion – a focus on enhancing positive social relationships between residents. 

He said that not only will these groups work in Sudbury, but that Sudbury won’t find success “just by installing first generation CPTED techniques.”

Another issue with improper technique, Saville said, is displacement; the crime rate goes down in one area, but up in another. When you force the people committing those crimes to a new area, that doesn’t stop them committing crimes — they just commit them in a new place.

Although Greater Sudbury’s overall crime rate has decreased by 4.3 per cent — the crime rate is the number of police-reported Criminal Code Offences per 100,000 population —some areas are seeing increases. 

While it can’t be definitely said that increased patrols and the resulting property crime rate downtown led, through displacement, to increases in property crime in other parts of the city, the data does seem to suggest that is the case.

Data provide by GSPS spokesperson Kaitlyn Dunn shows property crimes significantly increased in areas outside the downtown core during the same period there was increased patrolling in the downtown core.

So from June 1 to July 31, New Sudbury east of Barrydowne saw a 65-per-cent increase in property crimes; Hanmer saw a 123-per-cent increase; Chelmsford, 76 per cent, and; Minnow Lake (33 per cent). These are the same areas where outreach workers have said they’ve seen a rise in homelessness encampments.

Property crime rates have decreased in the West End (down 44 per cent), Flour Mill (down 23 per cent), Copper Cliff (down 65 per cent), and New Sudbury west of Barrydowne (down 26 per cent) and Val Caron (down 13 per cent) — areas where the homeless population is negligible.

There are various reasons for the increases, including a “grandparent scam” that went through town, but Dunn told Sudbury.com the “driving forces” behind the rates. 

“Chelmsford is an increase in break and enter, mischief and stolen vehicles; Hanmer is an increase in break and enter, fraud and stolen vehicles; Minnow Lake is an increase in break and enter; and New Sudbury East of Barrydowne is an increase in fraud and shoplift (mainly the LCBO and Superstore).”

When asked about displacement, Teed said it was hard to say because he did not have the names of offenders with which to verify accurately, but said, “I can tell you if there's an area that hasn't been audited or there's a bad environmental design for crime, then they will most likely go to that area. For sure.”

That’s why Saville said it is important to go beyond those initial CPTED findings, to go beyond the branches and dig up the roots of the problem. 

“Every town is different, every city is different, they need tailor made strategies,” he said. “It’s about building further from first generation and understanding not the where, but the why.” 

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with Sudbury.com. She covers the diverse communities of Sudbury, especially the vulnerable or marginalized, including the Black, Indigenous, newcomer and Francophone communities, as well as 2SLGBTQ+ and issues of the downtown core.


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Jenny Lamothe

About the Author: Jenny Lamothe

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with Sudbury.com. She covers the diverse communities of Sudbury, especially the vulnerable or marginalized.
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